Hive poets at Rotherham Civic for Off the Shelf Festival

Such a lovely evening on Friday at Off the Shelf Festival of Words at the beautiful Rotherham Civic.  Hive poets Safia Khan & Freya Bantiff performed wonderful sets alongside the brilliant Caroline Bird and Otis Mensah. Hosted by our very own Sile Sibanda, who co-hosted the 10th Birthday of the Youth Word Up the night before! If you haven’t been to Rotherham Civic, you really need to go. It’s such a gorgeous theatre with great staff and so welcoming.
Safia Khan is a winner of the New Poets Prize 2021. She is a member of Hive Young Poets and an alumnus of Doncaster Young Writers. She has been published in places like The North, BATH MAGG, Introduction X: The Poetry Business Book of New Poets and several Hive anthologies including Surfing the Twilight and Halfway Smile. She is currently studying medicine.

Freya Bantiff is a member of Hive Poetry. She is the winner of the Canterbury Poet of the Year 2021, the Walter Swan Poetry Prize (for 18-25) in 2020, and the Timothy Corsellis Poetry Prize in 2017. Freya’s poems and stories have been placed in numerous competitions since 2010 including Myslexia, the Ilkley Literature Poetry Festival and Foyle Young Poet of the Year. Her poems were chosen to tour Guernsey as part of the Guernsey Literary Festival’s ‘Poems on the Move’ exhibition in 2014 and 2015 and she won first prize in her category of the Wicked Young Writers Award in 2014.

Stage photos courtesy of Peter Martin @postarchives 

Thank You Youth Word Up 10th birthday!!

We just want to say a massive, heartfelt thank you to everyone involved in the 10th birthday of the Youth Word Up last night and every young person who took to the stage bravely and brilliantly. We all found it an emotional evening with many returning from over the years to show how the Youth Word Up has impacted their lives for the better including Sheffield Poet Laureate Warda Yassin and rapper HYPHYN. Dom Heslop/the1Devotion and Sile Sibanda did a stellar job of hosting and thanks as always to the team at Off the Shelf.

In a lasting celebration – a limited-edition 10-year anniversary anthology book featuring over 100 poems written by young people over the years is available to buy for just £5 (email us at before they all go!) Inside you’ll find poems that speak of the complexities of young lives: from flights of fancy and joy to grief and heartache, family love and family struggle, discrimination, good times and bad times. Here young people tell you who they are and how it is for them. As always, they ask you not to judge, only to listen. The book thanks all the young writers, services and workers by name who have taken part and supported us over the years.
Photos courtesy of Tim Cleasby Photographer
(more photos to come of individual performances)

Forming part of his guest curation of the Off the Shelf Festival in 2012, poet and activist, Benjamin Zephaniah, created the Youth Word Up, a project designed to give young people – particularly those from backgrounds and groups often marginalised – the opportunity to have their voices heard alongside an established poet.
The following year, writer and creative educator, Vicky Morris took up the reins of the project keeping the same aims at its heart. Now celebrating its 10th birthday year, the Youth Word Up has provided a safe and nurturing space for the voices of over 200 young people through workshop, print, digital and performance platforms. At yearly Off the Shelf events, young people have shared the stage with poets such as Hollie McNish, Andy Craven Griffiths, and Joelle Taylor.

In 2013, a Youth Word Up audio-visual installation of young people’s poetry was showcased in Sheffield’s Winter Gardens, and, since 2014, a Word Up print publication has been produced each year. A podcast replaced it during the pandemic in 2020. After first joining us back in 2016, returning to the stage to celebrate our 10th Birthday with us is Joelle Taylor. Joelle is an active advocate for poetry as an empowering form of expression for young people, and the founder of The Poetry Society’s national youth slam poetry championship, SLAMbassadors.

With big thanks to:

The following services who’ve supported us over the years.
Sheffield Community Youth Teams, Sheffield Youth Justice Service, Sheffield Futures, Sheffield Children in Care Council, Sheffield Care Leavers, Sheffield Young Carers, Chilipep Sheffield & Barnsley, Really Neet Project, STAMP, Doncaster Foyer, Doncaster Healthwatch, SayIt/Fruitbowl LGBT+

And to our headline poets over the years: Benjamin Zephaniah, Hollie McNish, Joelle Taylor, Mark Grist, Toria Garbutt, Andy Craven Griffith, Vanessa Kisuule, Saju Ahmed

Heartfelt thanks to: Benjamin Zephaniah, Fionn Mccloskey, Joel Hanna, Nik Perring, Janet Holmes, Zoe Cox, Daniel Bernard, Wes Brown and Michelle Beck. Hive young writers: Jess Wood, Will Banks, Beth Pearson, Vertaa Lune, Georgie Woodhead, Phoenix McAndrew, Fran Critchlow, Joe O’Brien, Gina Elby, Caitlin Taff, Abdullah BHM Rep (SHU)

And we couldn’t have made it to ten without you: Dominic Heslop, Jen Booth, Warda Yassin, Sile Sibanda, Danae Wellington, Vertaa Luna, Johnny Albrow, Lesley Webster, Maria de Souza, Sara Unwin, Su Walker, Louise Perch, Maxine Greaves (SHU) & Vicky Morris

And big thanks to funders and supported over the years: Arts Council England, South Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner, Sheffield Youth Justice Service,
Sheffield Futures, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Sheffield, Hive South Yorkshire Young Writers’ Network

Hive at Off the Shelf Festvial

It’s that time of year again! Off the Shelf Festival of Words is underway from Friday 15th to 31st October with events online and in the real world. As always, Hive is honoured to be onboard across a number of fabulous events.  Below is a taster of what to expect, events with Hive or hive writers, but there are many more events and happenings all things words to feast on here in the Off the Shelf Programme.

New Poets Prize winners 2021 – Sat 16th 5pm online
Readings from the four New Poets Prize winners including Hive young poet/Doncaster Young Writers alumnus, Safia Khan. Watch online via the link.

Poetry & performance workshop for young people in Rotherham – 20th Oct | 5pm Rotherham Civic
Calling young people aged 14 to 21 in Rotherham….like creative writing or want to build confidence to read or perform work to an audience? Then come along to the wonderful Rotherham Civic Theatre for a workshop all things poetry writing & spoken word (and maybe performing, but you decide!)
More info

10th Birthday of the Youth Word Up – Thurs 21st 7.30pm
Suitable for ages 13+, parental guidance applies
The Youth Word Up is ten years old this year! To celebrate, young people who’ve been involved in the project over the years perform their work alongside those new to the mic and this year, the mighty Joelle Taylor is back to headline!
FREE | Tickets

Poetry Live – HIVE Poets, Safia Khan, Caroline Bird, Otis Mensah: Hosted by Sile Sibanda
22nd Oct | 7.30pm Rotherham Civic
Join us for a stellar lineup of poetry talent including Freya Bantiff and Safia Khan, members of HIVE poetry.
More info

The Perks of Young Adult Fiction with Paula Rawsthorne – sat 30th Oct
A Hive Young Writers’ Day
Open to: Younger writers (aged 15-30) in South Yorkshire and beyond with any interests/experience level.
Drawing on the strengths and driving elements of this genre, join multi-award-winning writer, Paula Rawsthorne, for a day of writing and exploring all things Young Adult fiction. From finding inspiration for stories to pitches and plotting.
More info

Poets Respond to Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze 30th Oct 11am | Millennium Gallery Sheffield
Poets read new work inspired by Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze include Hive poets Warda Yassin, our Sheffield Poet Laureate, Sile Sibanda, and Danae Wellington.  Come and celebrate with us the life and work of the brilliant Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze.
Part of Black Women Write Now curated by Désirée Reynolds
More info

Young Writers Groups

Hive Young Writers’ Competition 2021/22

Poetry & performance workshop for young people in Rotherham

Calling young people aged 14 to 21 in Rotherham….
like creative writing or want to build confidence to read or perform work to an audience? Then come along to the wonderful Rotherham Civic Theatre for a workshop all things poetry writing & spoken word (and maybe performing, but you decide!) Through the workshop, you’ll build your writing confidence while finding out about opportunities for young writers including a special performance at the Civic on 22nd Oct which you’ll be invited to, and a regional OPEN MIC for young people in November which we hope you’ll come and perform at!

All welcome and you don’t have to feel you’re a great writer to get involved. All you need is curiosity and a pen!

Book your place by emailing:
And if you’re 14-19, consider coming to check out Rotherham Young Writers starting 4th Oct.

This is an Off the Shelf Festival of Words event. The festival is 30 years old this year and runs from 15th to 31st October. For the programme of great happenings visit:
Supported by Rotherham Civic Theatre & Rotherham Events

Speak Your Truth to Power

Who or what has power over you and what do you want to say to them?

This simple but vital question is at the heart of performance and digital theatre project – Truth to Power Café – and we’re delighted to be working with them this autumn via Rotherham’s Children’s Capital of Culture!

If you’re a young person in Rotherham aged 14 to 25, we’d love you to share your response with us – to speak your truth to power. You can come to a Hive writing and discussion workshop, or send us your answer to this question in writing or via video (details of both coming soon).

Whatever way you want to communicate your truth, we’d LOVE to hear from you, and where you’d find it helpful, we can support you to get out what you want to say.

The Truth to Power Café happens all over the world but this Rotherham café is aimed at you – young people aged 14 to 25 – it’s YOU we want to hear from.

Work from the project will be published in a little Truth to Power book and, very excitedly, some of the answers gathered will be picked up and explored further by the mighty Truth to Power Café itself – through a live show at Rotherham Civic Theatre.

There are many ways you can approach exploring this question. Your answer can be one that celebrates the powerful and impactful, for example, the influence of a family member on your life and what you’ve learned from them, or it might be a chance to talk to those you feel are accountable for things you want to see a change in the world. The power in question can be anything or anyone – your parents, your town, fashion, food, the environment, a sibling, a politician, a group of people, a neighbour, a religious leader, a teacher. Anything at all goes.

Interested? Then please get in touch! Email with your name, age, the area of Rotherham you live in, and one line about the power you want to speak of or to. We’ll get back to you soon!

And if you’re 14 to 19, you can also join Rotherham Young Writers (starting late September, details posted here soon)
Truth to Power Cafe
The Truth to Power Café is an internationally acclaimed performance and digital theatre event
told through memoir, image, poetry, music, and film. It’s created, written and performed by Jeremy Goldstein with Henry Woolf and directed by Jen Heyes.

Rotherham Children’s Capital of Culture
In 2025 Rotherham will be the world’s first Children’s Capital of Culture! In the meantime expect to hear about a range of great opportunities for children and young people in Rotherham including conversations, workshops and projects like this!

The Perks of Young Adult Fiction – Young Writers Day with YA writer Paula Rawsthorne

Hive Young Writers’ Day
Open to: Younger writers (aged 15-30)
in South Yorkshire and beyond with any interests/experience level.
Writing young adult fiction that flies off the page – with award-winning Young Adult fiction writer Paula Rawsthorne
Date To be confirmed (rescheduled due to illness)  – 10.30am – 4/4.30 pm | Venue: TBC, city central Sheffield.

Drawing on the strengths and driving elements of this genre, join multi-award-winning writer, Paula Rawsthorne, for a day of writing and exploring all things Young Adult fiction. From finding inspiration for stories to pitches and plotting.

You’ll think about the books you love and look at what distinguishes YA fiction from other forms and what to consider in the mix of a great YA novel, such as first-person narration versus third-person, creating characters, pace and story arches.

There’ll be exercises to get you writing and thinking, and Paula will give advice and tips to help you strengthen you own stories and ideas, and insights into how she wrote her award-winning books and got published.

This writers’ day has a focus on Young Adult fiction but will be of interest to young writers of any experience with an interest in any kind of fiction. You might have a story you’re developing on the go, or you might be looking for inspiration to plot a new one!

Open to: Younger writers (aged 15-30) in South Yorkshire (or beyond) with any interests/experience level.
Cost: £5/£4 including refreshments (but not lunch)
Discounts: Hive is keen to encourage young people who wouldn’t normally access this type of opportunity, and there are always discounts available for a number of tickets to support individuals who may be unable to pay in full, or to support travel costs within the region. Get in touch ASAP before places fill up if that sounds like you.

Booking: To book a place on this Writers’ Day, email:
Supported by Off the Shelf Festival of Words and Sheffield Hallam University 


Paula Rawsthorne is a multi-award-winning writer of Young Adult fiction. She discovered that she could write when she won a national BBC writing competition and her comic tale, The Sermon on the Mount was read by Bill Nighy on Radio 4. Her dark stories for adults have been published in anthologies of contemporary literature. Her first YA novel, The Truth about Celia Frost, was a winner of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Undiscovered Voices. Published by Usborne, it was shortlisted for eleven literary awards and won the Leeds, Sefton and Nottingham Book Awards.  Her second novel, Blood Tracks, won the Rib Valley Book Award.

Paula’s short stories for teenagers have been commissioned by Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature and published in an anthology of award-winning Young Adult authors. Paula’s third YA novel, Shell, (Scholastic 2018) won the North East Teen Book Award, The Derbyshire Schools’ Book Award and The Hampshire Book Award.  Her latest Black Mirror-esque YA novel, The New Boy, was published last year.

Find out more about Paula and her books: or on Twitter @paularawsthorne 

Hive Young Writers’ Days
Hive Young Writers’ Days are a chance for young writers, whatever your interest and ability, to develop your writing with support from professional writers, while meeting other young writers, and getting involved in the Hive young writers’ network.

Hive Young Writers’ Days are open to young people 14 to 26 (the age range changes sometimes). If you don’t quite fit, but you’d like to come, get in touch with:

But Mummy Doesn’t Have a Broken Arm by Sam Davis

We’re delighted to tell you about Doncaster young poet, Sam Davis’ debut children’s book – But Mummy Doesn’t Have a Broken Arm, out now on Amazon.

Sam, who attends Hive Poetry Collective and recently took part in the Brave New Words Doncaster project (in partnership with Doncaster Creates) wrote the book in the absence of finding anything suitable for children to read around understanding why a parent, or adult in their lives, might be in a mental health hospital.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Luna de Vera and we think Sam is an absolute inspiration in following her creative dreams and addressing something much needed through her writing talents.

Buy the book on Amazon here.

Blurb from the book: But Mummy Doesn’t Have a Broken Arm looks at the reasons why a parent may be in a mental health hospital. It focuses on the visual difference between physical health and mental health. It also reiterates the fact that it’s not the child’s fault that a parent is poorly. It can be very hard for children to understand why their mum or dad is not at home, and to understand the complexities of mental health. This book aims to explain that in an easy to understand terms with illustrations to help alongside the text.

“Samantha Davis is a talent, her writing effortlessly makes you care. When caring is probably the most important thing we can feel, this book is vital for any young family’s library, pulling back the curtain on mental health and showing it for what it is. Where there isn’t standing there is hope. Nik Perring

Samantha Julianne Davis is a Yorkshire-born and bred writer with a history of mental health difficulties. She’s spent over 10 years in and out of mental health hospitals. Samantha enjoys writing stories and poetry and performing spoken word.

Brave New Words Podcast

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past & imagine their world anew. They are a portal between one world & the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice & hatred, our avarice & dead ideas… Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” – Novelist Arundhati Roy

Brave New Words was a programme of free creative writing workshops for young people in Doncaster exploring Roy’s idea of stepping into a new way of looking at the world, and ourselves in it, through writing.

Although not solely focused on the pandemic, we discussed its effects and how our world might change on the other side. Most importantly, Brave New Words was about being creative, trying new ideas, coming together in isolation, having fun, and meeting like-minded people. Here is a podcast of some of the work produced:

Supported by Doncaster Creates

Writers: Rachel Pearson, Josh Phoenix, Sam Davies, Rachael Thacker, Kylie Noble, Beth Prior & Rebecca Payne.
Big thanks to Juliet Farrar, Mike Stubbs and Sacha Gray at Doncaster Creates.